November 5, 2013

Youth and the Eisenberg Uncertainty Principle: Laura van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth 3


With a billion swirling atoms of possibility and just that one fixed coordinate, a story takes shape as van den Berg brings the unexpected into brilliant focus.

October 29, 2013

The Lowest Form of Humor: How the National Lampoon Shaped the Way We Laugh Now 3


The funny guys and girls who are confident (it was dawning on me, there at that orientation) are the ones who hold court at parties. The funny guys who are diffident become comedy writers. Or, as I once read in an interview with an Onion writer speaking about the makeup of its staff—the closest thing we have to the National Lampoon in its heyday—they’re the guys who are outside the party, making fun of the guy inside telling jokes.

October 28, 2013

Life and Counterlife: Roth Unbound by Claudia Roth Pierpont 2


One thing that makes Roth Unbound interesting is that Pierpont was able to interview Roth in the first years of his retirement. You can feel Roth’s reflective, relaxed state of mind as he looks back on his career, cataloging his regrets and triumphs.

October 25, 2013

The Uses of Disenchantment: A New Generation of Writers on Loving and Leaving New York 1


Living in New York turns out to be a process of earning nostalgia — hoarding enough memories to give you the kind of claim on a place that makes it possible to leave it. When you reach your limit and set out elsewhere, memories are your consolation prize.

October 24, 2013

The Curious Paradox of John Updike 15


Updike was subject to charges of favoring style over substance from the moment he was considered a major writer, but it’s the late-Boomer and early Gen-Xer audience that Updike really annoys.

October 22, 2013

The Smile in the Bone: Lore Segal’s Half The Kingdom 0


Anyone who has ever passed time in a hospital will find something recognizable and true in Lore Segal’s new novel, Half The Kingdom.

October 18, 2013

A Prism of Hidden Meanings: On László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below  1


Moving beyond localized meaning, the stories challenge us to examine the psychology of our moment, a time in which our inability to understand the sacred paralyzes us in its presence.

October 18, 2013

Portrait of a Runner: On Mark Slouka’s Brewster 0


It gives me great pleasure to picture the Apostle of Democracy doing quarter-mile repeats on the lawn of Monticello, perhaps in preparation for a match race with his Federalist challenger John Adams at the Founding Fathers Relays. But I digress.

October 14, 2013

When the Stars Align: On Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries 7


Under the sign of Libra, the reading public will be gifted that rarest literary treasure, a book of such dazzling breadth and scope that it defies any label short of masterpiece.

October 9, 2013

A Little Bit Beta: On Dave Eggers’s The Circle 15


The Circle occupies an awkward place of satire and self-importance.